Published March 16, 2010
Researchers at the University of Michigan have found a chemical in bananas that could help protect women from HIV infection.
The chemical, a lectin known as Ban Lec, was found in laboratory tests to be as strong as two top HIV drugs. Lectin is found in plants as a sugar binding protein, and can successfully recognize and latch on to foreign invaders in the body. By connecting to the HIV-1 envelope protein that is high in sugar content, gp120, Ban Lec is able to stop HIV from entering the body.
Ban Lec has the potential to be a more affordable and more affective form of vaginal microbicides, according to the study conducted at the University of Michigan Medical School.
"The problem with some HIV drugs is that the virus can mutate and become resistant, but that's much harder to do in the presence of lectins," said Michael D. Swanson, a study author and student in the university’s graduate program in immunology.
"Lectins can bind to the sugars found on different spots of the HIV-1 envelope, and presumably it will take multiple mutations for the virus to get around them," Swanson said.
The findings were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
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